Relabeling “Antidepressants”


Do “the medications we call antidepressants justify the label of antidepressant?” So ask Davids Antonuccio and Healy in Scientifica. “On all of the identified dimensions for what a medication should accomplish to be called an antidepressant, current medications we call antidepressants seem to fall short … The effect sizes for many of the ‘side effects’ are larger than the antidepressant effect sizes. Using labels like antiaphrodisiac medications, agitation enhancers, insomnia inducers, suicidality inducers, mania stimulators, or gas busters obviously would not offer the same marketing appeal.” 

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. How would one translate the concept of a drug whose marketing value has nothing to do with the scientific data that describes the actual effects of the drug? By translate, I mean, apply in a relevant manner, using everyday language so that each of can appreciate the uncanny similarity between street drug hype and the marketing strategies of PHARMA + Academic Psychiatrists for prescription mind altering drugs.

    And how do we explain the paradoxical disparity between the penalties for fraudulent marketing of street vs. prescription drugs?

    And how do we gauge which is more profitable and least likely to be transparent to public scrutiny?

    So…. how come my health insurance won’t cover the ridiculously low cost of Chinese herbs? Is it because they have not been properly tested and determined to be both safe and effective for the treatment of *diseases/disorders*???

    Well, then, why don’t people have to pay out of pocket for psychiatric drugs, too? and up the wazoo for street drugs?

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    • The ominous threat of feline presence isn’t new or news. I’ve known since 30 years ago that cats “had” something that was deadly to humans. And pregnant mothers are told to not handle liter boxes because they can contract some horrid disease.

      Every so often “they” threaten to “get rid of the pennies” and people go stir crazy over it. I caught on to the scheme after the last time I got so emotionally worked up over the threat of taking away a poor man’s gold. Then I remembered, “hey – didn’t they do this like, ten years ago?”. Yup, “they” did.

      Too often – news really isn’t news. But of course, each new generation has to be initiated as if it’s some rite of passage.

      Oh, and the other thing “they” love to attack is the tomatoes. Every once in a while, the TOMATOES develop deadly diseases. Remember when people spread it around that tomatoes scream when you cut them? I think that wave ran in mid to late 90’s.

      It’s all for fun and games. It’s a make-you-believe-it world we’re living in. And, it’s a no-lose situation when there’s a profit system to take care of these “mentally ill” people (fools, believers – cuz they “lose touch” with reality).

      Gee, I wonder why.

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  2. This looks like a slightly whimsical look at what has been known for years. But I think it’s critically important. We can criticize PhARMA, psychiatry and most of the “mental health” world all we want for collusion in the drug scam; but words count – a LOT.

    That’s why PhARMA spends $60 billion a year on promotions. If you control what people call something, you control what they think and do about it. As long as we let PhARMA, psychiatry and others get away with calling these pills “antidepressants,” they’ll keep doing a land office business in them.

    Same with “mental health.” How can we stop the medical model’s hegemony while psychiatry has us referring to mental, emotional and behavior problems as “mental health”?

    This article provides a great service – a wonderful summary of the worst of “anti depressions,” and a completely accurate account of why these drugs are NOT antidepressants.

    Oh – another pet peeve: don’t call them “psychiatric medications,” and don’t call their use “psychopharmacology.” What are they? DRUGS that doctors prescribe.

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  3. I think it’s David Nutt, of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, who wants different classifications for antidepressants, antipsychotics, etc. because they sound so unpleasant and the drugs are crossing categories.

    Pharma is enthusiastic about this, too. Rebranding, always so helpful to expand sales.

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